Inaction ensures football cheaters prosper

FRED WOODCOCK
Last updated 11:29 30/10/2012
Andrew Durante and Ricki Herbert
CHRIS SKELTON/Fairfax NZ
Andrew Durante, left, and Ricki Herbert of Wellington Phoenix were right to complain about the decisions made in their clash with Adelaide on the weekend.

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OPINION: It's a crying shame that Football Federation Australia has failed to do anything about cheating on the field.

Wellington Phoenix defender Ben Sigmund's red card wasn't overturned, and captain Andrew Durante and coach Ricki Herbert are almost sure to be slapped with fines for their explosive - albeit accurate - comments about Saturday's controversial 3-1 A-League loss to Adelaide United.

I'm sympathetic to the Phoenix in both cases but the real disappointment is that Football Federation Australia's match review regulations have failed the movement against ''simulation'' (that's diving to the layman, or cheating, as some would bluntly put it).

There's no doubt Sigmund made contact with Adelaide's Jeronimo Neumann. Referee Jarred Gillett reckoned it was enough to warrant a red card as Sigmund was the last defender, and the match review panel sided with him.

Had Neumann gone down immediately, I'd have agreed. But he didn't. The contact didn't appear to force him down. He carried on for a moment, saw he couldn't get to the ball before goalkeeper Mark Paston, and fell over.

The match review panel thought there was ''no obvious error'' in sending Sigmund off, presumably because there was contact. But because it was ruled that there was no error, under the regulations they cannot then conduct a review for possible simulation.

What a crock that is.

Observers of the game will be wondering why on earth this is the case? Clearly, it is possible for contact to have been made at some point and for someone to have taken a dive. We saw that at the weekend.

At a time when football should be doing everything possible to stamp out this ugly blight on the game, one which gives non-football followers plenty of ammunition in those pub debates, the FFA is telling us they can't review this act.

The regulations simply must change.

"Unfortunately, the referee in our game with Adelaide did not deal with the situation competently and we are paying the penalty, rather than the player who was guilty of simulation,'' Herbert said in a strongly worded statement, adding it was ''wrong that the game is being ruined by players who dive and do not get punished for it''.

Hard to disagree with that.

But like Durante, who labelled Neumann a ''cheat'' and was scathing of the officials in a post-match television interview, Herbert might find himself in hot water this week. He twice called into question Gillett's competency in that statement last night and unlike Durante he won't have the 'heat of the moment' defence.

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Never fear, though, because Yellow Fever is here. The Phoenix supporters club has rustled up a donations page to help out the club if, or when, required. It raised $200 in the first 15 minutes and as of 10.30am, there was $550 in the coffers.

***

The Jeronimo dive wasn't the only controversy arising from Saturday's match. Adelaide scored a goal from a clear-cut offside, while Phoenix striker Jeremy Brockie was denied a goal for being offside in what was a much tighter call.

All this poor officiating wasn't the sole reason the Phoenix lost and there is too much blame aportioned to referees by losing sporting teams these days. Remember Wayne Barnes.

Herbert himself has been guilty of deflecting the spotlight onto officials after a loss. But in this case, his criticisms and those from Durante were justified.

***

A photo in an Adelaide newspaper yesterday would have done little to brighten Durante and Herbert's mood. It pictured Jeronimo at the team's recovery session at the beach, jokingly making a dive motion as he headed for the water.

***

A parting question: Will Gillett be given a Phoenix match again this season? Either way, I'd love to be nearby the next time he and Herbert are in the same space.

- The Dominion Post

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